Too much? (Perhaps the first tip to discuss is using hyperbole wisely.)
But seriously, we’re not talking magic beans or lotto numbers here. What we are talking about is communicating. It’s something people continue to do every day…and continue to fail at miserably.
Throughout our day, we’re in constant communication with the people around us. Whether we’re successful in out communications—whether we actually convey the message (or the feeling, or the data) and have it received—depends on our skill. These basic tips can help you craft a better message so you can successfully complete the communication transaction and provide a message that people will hear.
1 Think about who will be reading what you write.
People who read what you write are not you. Maybe you think they are, but they aren’t. So consider who will be reading what you write. Understand that their world view is most likely different from yours, figure out how that affects your message, and adjust your communication accordingly. Don’t make assumptions–they can cause unnecessary confusion and send you off on tangents. Practice mindfulness and take the time to look at what you’ve written through another’s point of view.
2 Garbage in, garbage out.
Remember that the point of writing is to communicate. If garbage is what you want to communicate, then writing garbage is exactly what you should do. However, if you have a different message to communicate, then make sure that message is clear and makes sense at the outset. Do your homework and know the topic you plan to write about. Clarify the arguments you want to make and the main points you want to convey to your audience. Don’t hide them in a jumble of five- and six syllable words that end in tion and ship.
If the original message or proposition is vague and ill-conceived, all the excellent writing in the world won’t make it better.
3 Know where you want to go.
Where are you taking your audience? Is there a point to what you’re writing? Sometimes there’s not and that’s okay, but those examples of writing tend to be for you–journal entries or exercises where the point is simply the act of writing. If you have something to say, tell them–not just once, but multiple times–and the sooner the better. Respect their intelligence and value their time and check in with them to make sure they understand. Pretend you’re getting paid based on how well readers understand what you wrote. And remember, they always have the option to say fuhgeddaboudit!
If there’s a reason you’re writing, don’t hide it from your audience. Make it as easy as possible for them to receive your message.
4 Read what you write. And again.
If it doesn’t make sense to you, it won’t make sense to your reader and the best way to test this is to read it–not as a writer with your editing pen in hand, but as a reader who wants the information, directions, or feelings you’re offering. There’s no translation app that I know of that takes jumbled, ill-conceived, unorganized, convoluted, gobbledy-gook and turns it into clear, concise, compelling content.
If you took the trouble to write it down, for goodness sake, take the time to read it. If you don’t read it, then don’t expect others to read it either.
5 Make it easy for your reader to read what you write.
Content is king in today’s online-centric world, but even the most compelling content will lose its impact if it contains spelling errors or subject/verb disagreement or uses the wrong word. They help your audience put their attention on the message not the message container. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence construction,
If you are a writer or an editor, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary are the tools of your trade. Know them well (or know how to look them up).
6 Don’t squander your good name.
People start out believing what you write–it ‘s just the way we’re wired. We like to believe nice things about each other. People are also generally gracious and will forgive a genuine mistake or a bad call. We’re know we’re not perfect. However, if you repeatedly give people poorly written (e.g. typos and missing words), incomplete (e.g. one-sided information and missing relevant information), inaccurate (e.g. facts not in evidence or distortions of generally known facts in the world around us) and biased (e.g. unlabeled opinions and theories) content in the guise of fair, accurate, complete content they will eventually stop reading what you wrote. And, given the choice, they will never trust you or your writing again.
If you respect your audience, they will respect you.